WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) urged Congress to work in a bipartisan manner “to ensure the safety net of Social Security Disability Insurance is in place and guarantee the program’s integrity.”

The Senator’s comments were made Thursday at Senate Finance Committee hearing entitled, “Social Security: A Fresh Look at Workers’ Disability Insurance,” which was convened to examine solvency issues facing SSDI and the increasing number of disabled Americans receiving SSDI benefits.

The 2013 Social Security Trustees’ Report estimated that the Disability Insurance Trust Fund, which is financed by employer and employee payroll tax contributions, will face a shortfall in 2016 necessitating a 20% cut in benefit payments if Congress does not act.  Senator Cardin, a member of the Social Security Subcommittee, pointed out that 11 times since the creation of the Disability Insurance Program, Congress has taken bipartisan action to reallocate monies between the Old Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund and the Disability Trust Fund. He noted that the most recent reallocation was proposed in the FY1994 and FY1995 Clinton Administration’s Budgets to Congress and it was enacted in 1994 unanimously by the House and Senate. Senator Cardin urged the Social Security Administration to work with OMB to include such a proposal in President Obama’s  FY2016 budget, which will be sent to Capitol Hill early next year.

“The decision to preserve benefits for disabled American workers– who have paid into this essential insurance fund–should not be partisan or controversial,” said Senator Cardin.

SSDI currently pays benefits to nearly 9 million disabled workers and two million spouses and children.  The average monthly benefit for a disabled worker is about $1,140, just above the federal poverty level. Eligibility for DI benefits is subject to a strict standard.  According to federal law, eligible applicants must demonstrate that they are no longer able to “engage in any substantial gainful activity due to a physical or mental impairment that has lasted or is expected to last at least one year or to result in death.”

Sen. Benjamin Cardin